The Salem Witch Trials of colonial Massachusetts is an infamous event known throughout the entirety of the world. This is a result of the unnecessary executions of a collection of people. The bloodshed of the number of citizens is referred to as unnecessary for the reason that the trials were supposedly surrounded by paranormal activity. Proof that the accused legitimately participated in demonic activities such as witchcraft was incapable of being found. Although it may be factual that it could not be proven if paranormal activity took place, the government still seized the lives of a variety of innocent individuals.
The Salem witch trials are considered heinous for the reason that 20 innocent people were penalized for offenses they did not commit. In 1692, the majority of the Salem, Massachusetts population belonged to the branch of Christianity known as the Puritans. The Puritan community originally departed from their dwelling in England seeking religious tolerance (“Salem”). Although the main purpose of their pilgrimage was religious freedom, the lifestyle of a member of the Puritan community was Pallotta 2 rigorous and intense. For example, it was believed that each sin a person had committed should be penalized.
This includes impoverished people who stole food to survive or those who dozed off during church service (Discovery). The Puritans held the belief that God was unrelenting and merciless. This is the effect of the teaching that God penalized sinful actions. It was thought that if misfortune occurred in a person’s life, it was the work of God punishing the family for their sins. For example, if a fatal malady broke out in a family, members of the community would not help aid the sick and their relatives as a result of the belief that they were receiving punishment for their religious immortalities (Discovery).
The Puritans enduringly believed in God. Consequently, they acquired equivalent beliefs towards the Devil. It was taught that the Devil would prey on the frailest members of society such as women, children, and the mentally ill. These individuals who were chosen to follow Satan and carry out his work were referred to as witches. Witches, in addition were people who conformed to the devil and participated in demonic activity such as witchcraft. Witchcraft was considered by the Puritans to be one of the most severe crimes that a person could commit.
It was believed to be so heinous that the penalty was death (Discovery). The accusation of witchcraft that generated the trials in Salem began when minister Samuel Parris’s daughter, Elizabeth, and niece, Abigail Williams, came down with a bizarre illness. The girls acquired abnormal symptoms such as uncontrollable fits and bodily movements. In addition, they spoke in obscure languages. As a result, Paris contacted a doctor Pallotta 3 to come and examine the girls. Following the examination, the doctor came to the conclusion that the young women did not have an illness, but were rather the victims of witchcraft.
Subsequently, Parris’s Barbadian slave, Tituba, was accused of performing witchcraft by Elizabeth and Abigail. After the threat of being brutally whipped, Tituba confessed to telling Caribbean voodoo stories and teaching the young ladies of Salem about fortune-telling. In addition, she listed two other women by the names of Sarah Good and Sara Osborne, who she claimed accompanied her while she used witchcraft to harm the girls. This consequently initiated the accusation of 200 people (“Salem”). Witchcraft became the solution when medical illnesses occurred.
If a child in the village acquired any sort of undetermined ailment, they would accuse others of performing demonic activity. In addition, accusations were made as a result of rivalries between neighbors simply to eliminate them from society. Following an accusation, a trial would transpire. Originally, the death penalty was exclusively utilized for those who were simply accused of witchcraft, whether proof was found or not. Subsequently, it was decided more evidence would be essential before an execution transpires. As a result, jails were overflowing with victims awaiting their trials (Pusey).
Shortly after the imprisonments the hangings began. The first victim to be hanged was Pallotta 4 Bridget Bishop on June 10, 1692. Bishop was a middle-aged widow who did not hold an excellent reputation in the village. Her reputation consisted of frequent run-ins with the law and previous accusations of witchcraft. In addition, she was notorious for exhibiting provocative clothing, which was considered to be severely immoral to the Puritans. As a result, Bishop was the first to be tried in interest that the case opposing her would receive success effortlessly.
On June 2, 1692, she became the first defendant to be found guilty (Pusey). The majority of the accused consisted of colonists that were considered to be outcasts in society such as Bridget Bishop. For example, most of the individuals accused consisted of outspoken women, Quakers, slaves, colonists who castigated the witch trials, colonists with criminal backgrounds and/or previously had accusations of witchcraft in past years. This is a consequence of the Puritans’ hostility towards those who did not abide by the rigorous and societal requirements of the colony (Pusey).
Following the execution of Bridget Bishop, an elderly woman by the name of Rebecca Nurse was brought into the court to be examined in front of a broad group of people at the Salem meetinghouse. The seventy one year old was accused of performing witchcraft by her neighbor, Ann Putnam, and her twelve year old daughter. When Nurse’s trial took place, it was said that she afflicted a great number of people throughout the entirety of the trial (Brand 34). It was said that every time Nurse moved, people felt as though they were being tortured.
If she leaned back people claimed, “it was as if their backs was broken. ” If she leaned forward, their breasts became bruised. People also stated to have witnessed a ‘black man’ whispering into her Pallotta 5 ear during the gathering. Following multiple trials, Nurse was found guilty and executed by hangings on July 19, 1692 (Brandt 35). The trial and execution of Rebecca Nurse are examples of how the Salem Witch Trials were unnecessary. Nurse was known by the colonists who lived in Salem to be one of the most devout members of society.
This is a result of her generosity towards her neighbor. When her neighbor relocated from his home in the Salem area, she volunteered to raise his daughter until his return. In addition to her generosity, her reputation throughout the village was nearly impeccable. For example, she was seldom involved in constant lawsuit actions for slander, or land disputes (Brandt 36). Nurse is an example of how the accused and executed people of the trials were sincerely virtuous and moral people who did not deserve the punishments they received.
In addition to men, women and children, animals were accused as well of participating in witchcraft and performing demonic activities. Throughout the entirety of the colonial time period, it was believed that witches acquired companions that assisted them with their bidding and carrying out the work of the Devil. During the Salem Witch Trials, two dogs were accused and put to death for performing witchcraft. The first execution took place in October of 1692 following the accusation by a young girl who inhabited Andover, Massachusetts.
The girl claimed that her neighbor’s dog attempted to bewitch her. Soon after the accusation was made the dog was shot. Following the execution of the dog in Andover, a dog in the village of Salem began behaving outlandishly. The afflicted girls who inhabited the village claimed that John Bradstreet of Andover was riding the deranged dog and was disturbing it with his spirit. Pallotta 6 Although the dog was regarded to be a victim of Bradstreet, it was executed anyway (Brooks 1). By spring of 1692, the village of Salem was known to be “possessed by the devil” (“Salem”).
A total of one hundred and seventy-two people were known to be formally arrested and charged for witchcraft (Baker). Many people were accused, including significant members of the colony. Not a single individual of the Salem community was safe from the threat of being put to death. This includes every man, woman, child, and animal. Consequently, members and nonmembers of the Salem community attempted to ‘calm the storm’ and resolve the issue of the hysteria (“Salem”). An individual by the name of Thomas Brattle had extremely strong opinions regarding the trials taking place in Salem.
On October 8, 692, he composed a letter to a clergyman stating that innocent people should not be executed for a crime where the defendant cannot be proven guilty by factual verification (Furlong-Bolliger). Brattle states that the ‘he say, she say’ of the trials are, “unfit to be evidence either against themselves or anyone else” and “do very often contradict themselves, as inconsistently as is usual for any crazed, distempered person to do” (Brattle). Overall, Brattle criticized the mechanisms the government used while articulating whether a person has committed a crime that is so heinous it should result in death (Furlong-Bolliger).
In addition to Brattle, Cotton Mather, an influential minister, author, and pamphleteer had similar opinions towards the trials that took place in Salem. As a result, Mather attempted to Pallotta 7 terminate the hysteria occurring in Salem. He did this by publishing a tract urging the colonists to become cautious when someone is suspected of performing demonic activities (Pusey). Mather stated, “Satan might be devious enough to make innocent people behave like witches. We are bound by the rule of charity to think otherwise” (Mather).
Following the publication of the tract, the governor of Massachusetts in 1692 by the name up Sir William Phips disbanded the entirety of the court and pardoned the imprisoned that were condemned to be executed (Pusey). In conclusion, the 1692 witch hunt and trials in Salem, Massachusetts were unjust and heinous for reason that twenty innocent people were penalized for crimes they did not commit (“Salem”). Nineteen victims were hanged and one person by the name of Giles Corey was tortured by being pressed to death (Baker). The government executed many citizens as a consequence of their tenacious beliefs in God and the devil (“Salem”).